marketer of the month

EPISODE 157: Marketer of the Month Podcast with Nicki Borell

Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!

We recently interviewed Nicki Borell for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Nicki and here’s what we discussed about-

1. Consulting Evolution: Shifting to holistic consulting prioritizing practical solutions over technicalities.

2. Integrating Legal Compliance: Collaborating for GDPR compliance in technical solutions.

3. Regulatory Impact on Security: GDPR’s role in reshaping security, and reevaluating cloud configurations.

4. Microsoft 365’s User-Centric Approach: Embracing user-focused solutions within integrated apps.

5. AI’s Accessibility Impact: Democratizing tech for non-tech users, changing tech interaction.

6. Collaboration for Comprehensive Solutions: Partnering for broader capabilities beyond core expertise.

About our host:

Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.

About our guest:

Nicki Borell, an IT evangelist and consultant, co-founded Experts Inside and spearheads “Xperts At Work.” With vast Microsoft enterprise experience, he excels in consulting for SharePoint, Microsoft 365, and Azure. Nicki, a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP for Office Apps & Services brings expertise in M365, AI, security, and compliance solutions to the German Speaker Association e.V.

365 Degrees of Innovation: Microsoft’s Regional Director Nicki Borell on User-Centricity in Microsoft365’s Orbit

The Intro!

Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda, and I’m the creative director at Outgrow. co. And for this month we are going to interview Nicki Borell, who is the Regional Director at Microsoft and Co-founder of Experts Inside.

Nicki Borell: Great to be here. Thank you.

Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!

Or you can just listen to it on Spotify!

The Rapid Fire Round!

rapid fire

Saksham Sharda: All right, so let’s start with the rapid-fire questions. The first one is at what age do you want to retire?

Nicki Borell: Last year.

Saksham Sharda: How long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?

Nicki Borell: 15 minutes 20 minutes.

Saksham Sharda: Most embarrassing moment of your life.

Nicki Borell: Poor. Hopefully, it didn’t happen until now. So I’m looking forward to it.

Saksham Sharda: Favorite color?

Nicki Borell: Green.

Saksham Sharda: What time of day are you most inspired?

Nicki Borell: In the early morning.

Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on?

Nicki Borell: Flexible. Starting from five up to eight.

Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank. An upcoming technology trend is _____.

Nicki Borell: AI.

Saksham Sharda: The city in which the Best Kiss of your life happened

Nicki Borell: Kaiserslautern.

Saksham Sharda: Pick one- Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg.

Nicki Borell: Elon Musk.

Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career.

Nicki Borell: Skip.

Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?

Nicki Borell: Oh, I’m on my bike.

Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

Nicki Borell: Too much. Five

Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate.

Nicki Borell: Skip

Saksham Sharda: The most valuable skill you’ve learned in life.

Nicki Borell: Be patient.

Saksham Sharda: Your favorite Netflix show?

Nicki Borell: Pepsi, Where’s my Jet?

Saksham Sharda: One-word description of your leadership style.

Nicki Borell: Flexible.

Saksham Sharda: Top priority in your daily schedule.

Nicki Borell: Keep on track.

Saksham Sharda: Ideal vacation spot.

Nicki Borell: Skip.

Saksham Sharda: Key factor for maintaining a work-life balance.

Nicki Borell: Be aware of what’s around you.

Saksham Sharda: Memorable career milestone,

Nicki Borell: Decide to be a co-founder of Experts Inside.

Saksham Sharda: The last song you’ve been listening to.

Nicki Borell:  Skip.

Saksham Sharda: The last movie that you saw that had a good impression on you.

Nicki Borell: It’s an old movie ‘Heat’, starring Robert De Niro.

The Big Questions!

Big Questions

Saksham Sharda: Well, that’s the end of the rapid fire. Let’s move on to the longer question and answer with as much ease and time as you like. The first one is can you share your journey into Microsoft enterprise environments and your role as a consultant for SharePoint Office 365 and Azure?

Nicki Borell: Yes. So I started my career with a focus on Microsoft technology as an employee, and not an employee of Microsoft as an employee in a company, and my job was a database administrator. So I worked with Microsoft SQL Server. And in this context, SharePoint came up with SharePoint databases, maintaining backup, etcetera. And so I came in touch with SharePoint and it was an impressive part of technology for me. Step by step I moved over from the database administrator role to the SharePoint role. This was in 2009 and 2010. Then in the year 2011, two colleagues of mine planned to found our own company, which we call Experts Inside. It was in September 2011. And in October 2011, they asked me if I would also be interested in joining this idea. So at our starting point, it was three guys saying, Okay, we know about SharePoint and this was the beginning of my Microsoft professional career?

Saksham Sharda: How do the guiding principles of experts at work align with your vision for providing consulting services and what distinguishes your approach?

Nicki Borell: At the end of the day, experts at Experts Inside are just a company doing technology consulting which means there are a lot of topics around us that we have to deal with, but which are not technology topics. So the most well-known example is GDPR. GDPR is a law at the end of the day. So if you have questions about this, you must ask a lawyer, not technical. And on the other side, from a technical perspective, even with cloud computing, there is no way to ignore GDPR. So that means we have to deal with these scenarios. We can do technology, this is what we said Our daily business. And around us, we have some other stuff like user adoption, communication concepts, etc, which are important for us. And this is where we begin to start dealing with strong partners for projects.

Saksham Sharda: And how has all of this changed? Since you mentioned GDPR, how does GDPR evolve in the market sense?

Nicki Borell: So GDPR brings stuff like security, and compliance on just definitely another level that it was before. Security and compliance when you’re talking to a customer and asking a stupid question like ‘Is security important for you?’ Nobody will say no security, we don’t care. But now we have a law that brings the need that you have to deal with it yet, you have to write down concepts that you have to evaluate your settings to fulfill the GDPR requirements, which are mostly even from a technical perspective, focusing on security and compliance features. And with this, it is just another level as it was before. This is also why I’m not only focusing on SharePoint or communication, projects, and technologies like meanwhile, teams, etc. but some other topics are definitely in this context. So what is needed to configure a secure and compliant M 365, or even Azure environment? And when we were starting the discussions, even with a company, answering the questions, why should we do this? What is the need to do this? Because of the customer? We’ll understand why I should care about it.

Saksham Sharda: So considering this experience, that you’re talking about what emerging trends in SharePoint or Azure or Microsoft 365, do you think will reshape the industry?

Nicki Borell: So, OTC, is that Microsoft is just focusing features under business topics. Definitely. So in the last years, we had a fast involvement. So you know, the so-called Evergreen approach that Microsoft is using, which means there are updates every week or at least every month. And this brings out a lot of tiny little apps doing specific stuff. At the end of the day, a user or let’s say, a customer in the context of a project isn’t interested in this app, his tiny app is interested in the solution that helps him to do his daily business. In this context, what Microsoft is doing is just combining or aggregating features and functions, which are split in different tiny little apps, to a complete solution. So the best example is the new planner. So the new planner, which was announced at Ignite, is now aggregating capabilities, tasks from the planner, from Project Online, and even from to do, and this is definitely what the customer looking for the customer wants, or the user or the customer wants an application that shows him, what do I have to do today, independent of this task is done in the planner in the project for the web, or in to do or whatever solution. These are interesting trends, or is this all combined? Another interesting thing that I see is maybe you heard about this application Microsoft Loop. It’s just an app where you can cooperate even with other people. And of course, yes, there are other products out in the market, for example, Miro, and bots, which are doing at least the same, and to be true Miro, in more detailed features and functions. But what is the big benefit of loop loop is integrated in teams, it’s integrated in Outlook, etc, etc. That means from an end-user perspective, it is independent. If you’re using it in the email or team chat, the loop component is the same and the data you’re dealing with is also the same because it’s stored in the loop app or the backend service of the loop app. And this is a trend where we actually see and from my perspective and even from what our customers are telling us a good approach because if at the end of the day, it means more or fewer silos for you depending on which solution or which architecture you provide.

Saksham Sharda: Considering the significant developments like new planners, and also open AI discussions, what potential opportunities or challenges do you foresee for businesses adopting these technologies?

Nicki Borell: AI is aptly an investment, so everybody’s talking about AI, think about the Microsoft Ignite AI was the only one that also heard this conference AI so it’s you know, this funny situation the answer is AI Of course, what was the question? but the answer is AI. So let’s see if you’re just going a little bit deeper. AI is a big game changer. Just looking a little bit of where we are coming from, there’s the interview, you can watch it on YouTube or other platforms from the founder of the Homebrew Computer Club in the 1970s 1975, something like this. And he talked about the first home computer, the Altair. And he says, Oh, it can blink and peep. And we can just use these switches to program it. And that’s it. But this was the starting point of my career in computer systems because the next step is that we have computers for maybe employees in companies. But that means the employee needs to be aware of how to deal with this machine, you need to know the programming language or the code that is needed to get the value out of this machine. And then the next level was graphical user interfaces, which Apple and Microsoft brought up. So it was this step that people who before were not able to deal with this machine because they didn’t know the programming languages that are out can now get the value out of computers. And what we see actually with AI is just the next step, because I think you also played around with ChatGPT, etc. You can ask this little machine in the natural language, what do you want to have simple stuff, like telling me what to do in Amsterdam? And please act as my travel agent. And the answer is brilliant from the quality. And that means that even people who are not aware of computer technology, actually now have the chance to get the value out of this machine. So yeah, that’s an on-trend.

Saksham Sharda: So let’s talk a bit about you being your Microsoft Regional Director and MVP for Office servers and services. What are your primary areas of expertise, benefiting your client tip?

Nicki Borell: As we already talked about, it’s just coming from the SharePoint ecosystem, which means it’s all about communication, collaboration, planning, and setting up solutions that let people interact in projects, or even, let’s say in departments in a company, or even strategies about different subsidiaries of a company split all over the world. So this is where I’m coming from. And this is also what I’m still doing. And I love to do this. And in addition, it’s the security and the compliance stuff. So security, even in the context of cloud computing, has reached a new level because your cloud environment can be reached from wherever in the world, with only Internet access and a username and password, and then you can access it. And with this, we just get new challenges we have to respect. So a big topic I do with my customers is working out trust strategies in the context of trust, nobody, don’t trust the device, or whatever. But just work out which data must be available for your employees or maybe even for your customers in which scenarios. So a simple example, give you a little bit of an idea of what this means, let’s say the menu card for the restaurant in your company, this is not security critical, you can just use it on your private phone, from your private laptop, whatever. But let’s say the data about the sea level is just actually talking, which is highly secure content. And if someone gets in touch with this, who is not allowed to do it, maybe there’s a big, big negative impact. So we had a completely different scenario than the menu card or the restaurant. And the zero trust strategy means we had to respect these different scenarios and work out the details on how this data can be accessed, etc.

Saksham Sharda: And so what notable challenges have you faced throughout your career here? And how did you overcome them personally or in consulting projects, anything memorable that comes to mind?

Nicki Borell: For me, and I think also, the other founders of Experts Inside, it was an interesting challenge in the last 10-12 years to come from, I’m a technical guy, and I know the bits and bytes to do strategic consulting with value for our customers. So, as we discussed, the customer isn’t interested in this is SharePoint or this is Exchange, or whatever the customer is interested in either problem, can you offer me a solution and will it help me to work out a strategy, that can be used to fulfill my or to to respect my business critical things. This is the evolution I and my other colleagues did in the last 10 years coming from this pure technical perspective, which is still really important, don’t misunderstand me. But from me and my role, in this industry, it is more going actually to strategic consulting and helping customers work out okay, where we are actually, and where we need to go to be on top of our industry in the future.

Saksham Sharda: So do you have any example where failure or setbacks ultimately led to a valuable learning experience in your career?

Nicki Borell: Yes. Learning sorry in the context Have you also in the early years said, Okay, here’s a brilliant new feature in whatever SharePoint or it’s the starting point of Microsoft 365, or Office 365, which was the first name? It is about new features and now we can do it in the cloud. And you can access this from home from your private devices, etc. But at the end of the day, the learning is, this is interesting. Depending on who you’re talking to in the company, they are interested in these talks, but in the end, from a company from a sea-level perspective, that’s not the important thing. So the important thing is, okay, how much is it? And what can I do with it? What can help me to fulfill my daily business, and work on my daily business priorities, is learning to come as a technical guy, from these bits and bytes level to this strategic level, and helping within this.

Saksham Sharda: So we’ve also done some research and found out that you’re a professional member of the German Speaker Association, how has public speaking impacted your career and industry influence to be true?

Nicki Borell: To be true, I’m no longer but anyway, I’m just doing public speaking. I’m just here at the ESPC conference where we do the interview. And I’ve also some speaking slots here. And it’s a big part of my professional career. It means a little bit of doing good things and talking about them. So yes, normally, the sessions I just provided or I talked about, are based on learnings and experiences we had from projects, which means I can say with customer XY set, we had a situation like this. And now I can give you an idea of how we fulfill this or how we solve this situation. And this is interesting for the audience. Even the good thing is that the audience is giving you feedback, you have questions afterward, or you have feedback during the sessions, which means also as a speaker, you’re learning a lot. So yeah, this is public speaking, it is the elementary point of my career here.

Saksham Sharda: And you keep mentioning that you come from a technical background. And do you think a lot of people in that background also should be doing public speaking, because I guess the boat doesn’t combine all the time?

Nicki Borell: At the end of the day, you must like to do this. I think there are a lot of brilliant, brilliant technical developers outside who are not laughing, speaking for a big audience, which is fair enough, no problem. But if you just have a passion for this, and you think you’re good at this, definitely do it. It’s a cool thing.

Saksham Sharda: So you mentioned collaborating with strong partners, and projects earlier? How vital are these collaborations? And how do you ensure seamless cooperation and successful outcomes?

Nicki Borell: Yes, so this was beginning in the first days of Experts Inside that we just recognized, we can do SharePoint at the beginning. And we can do it well. But at the end of the day, other topics need to be done, which are not our main focus. And then you’re just in the situation that you say, I have to learn this, or I have to deal with someone who already is in a position to deliver on a professional level, these capabilities are all about, let’s say, communication or even we talked about GDPR, this law, perspective, etc. This is when we started just dealing with service partners, which means at the end of the day, you must look a little bit, and see the difference between asking a guy that I know. Can you help me? Or did you know the answer to a specific question? This is not what I mean, was partnering. Partnering is. So for example, let’s say we’re doing a project and migration on Prime Exchange to Exchange Online, whatever, which means we need a communication concept, the end user needs to be informed what’s going on in the timeline of new features, and so on and so on. And when I say okay, actually, we need someone who helps us within this because all of our people who can do this are just involved in other projects. Okay, can you work out and do and deliver the communication concept for this project? And the partner says, yes, that means for me, at this point, I’m out of this. He’s doing the stuff and I’m out, he’s doing this for me. Because if you don’t have this clear setup, then it’s ending in chaos. So this is also a lesson learned. If you just say, Okay, there’s a partner and you just sign the chapter for him and it’s his job and not a long year’s job. But at the end of the day, for us, it was a successful strategy, working with strong partners on a trusted level to offer a wider range of capabilities to our customers.

Saksham Sharda: So speaking of chaos, how do you maintain effective communication and synergy among diverse partners to ensure project objectives are met efficiently?

Nicki Borell: At the end of the day to be true, this is not my key competence. This is why we have partners so normally when it’s about simple stuff, okay, we can do it on our own. But if you’re just coming to really such scenarios you manage Until diversity, etc. But you need to be careful in respecting these, these strengths, then normally this is something where I say, Okay, we need a partner or maybe if someone at experts inside who says I can do this no problem, then it’s his job. It’s not my key competence to be

Saksham Sharda: So the last question for you is of a personal kind. What would you be doing in your life if not this?

Nicki Borell: Good question. Really good question. So I have a hobby. I’m writing books. I published my first thriller, in the year 2019. This wasn’t a complete self-publishing approach, it was just an idea I wanted to do. So I did it and worked out how it works. There’s also an audiobook available. This was also an interesting challenge: find a speaker who is reading the book, and then publish it on an audible, etc. So I got a professional agency that is supporting me with this second book that is already written. And it’s a situation where we are just looking for a publisher. And the third is in planning. So if I don’t do it, I think I will write books.

Saksham Sharda: And what’s the thriller about?

Nicki Borell: It’s about the stock exchange, heck, so also the technology focus because this is where I’m coming from. Yeah, this is it.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, do you believe with the advent of Chat GPT as a writing engine and white actors in artificial intelligence and voices who can narrate it? How is this industry going to change?

Nicki Borell: It has an impact. But at the end of the day, when you see how this technology works? So how does a large language model work? At the end of the day, it’s just based on calculation, so it means it is an average of what someone else already said and aggregated in a new context, which means the language model as of today, isn’t available to work out something that has never been seen before or never been heard before. Because of this, I’m not very angry from the perspective of an author because the big thing for an author is writing a book that was never written before.

Let’s Conclude!

Saksham Sharda: Thanks, everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was And for this month we are going to interview Nicki Borell, who is the Regional Director at Microsoft and Co-founder of Experts Inside.

Nicki Borell: Pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Saksham Sharda: Check out the website for more details and we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.

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